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  • Shayna Sheinfeld, Ph.D.

Recognizing and Owning your Worth

At this point in the process you have spent time taking stock of your goals in the past, and where you have succeeded at reaching them (and celebrating those successes!), letting go of the guilt of not reaching a goal when you had no control over the outcome (such as the article rejection), and of thinking about how you have framed your goals in the cases where you did not reach them. What we often perceive as failure in academia is either something we have no control over or based on unrealistic expectations to begin with.


Before we move on to think about what we want to accomplish in the upcoming semester (or summer/sabbatical/year), we need to turn fully internal and look at ourselves. This is different than looking back at our actions for the previous term. For this step we need to take the time to think about how we think about ourselves. For those engaged in the life of the mind, this may feel uncomfortable and perhaps a little hippy-dippy. It is an essential step, however.


Let's look a few examples:


Example #1: Perhaps, for instance, you are on the job market and you didn't even land an interview. Or you got one, but didn't make it past that initial stage. It's never going to happen, right?


Example #2: Let's say you did get that interview, and campus visit, and a job offer. The dream is yours! But you are concerned that it was just luck, just happenstance, and at some point someone will figure out what a fraud you are.


Example #3: You just can't complete this book/article/dissertation. Too many other things keep getting in the way, especially the teaching. Or your kid(s)/spouse. Or your lack of family support. Or the release of new seasons of all of your favorite Netflix shows.


Example #4: You have the job. You even have tenure. You have a book out with a second already submitted to the publisher, you have articles out and just got word of a grant that will cover your research next summer. Your students are great, and things are going well at home. So why are you so miserable all the time?


Each of the examples above could benefit at least partially from being able to recognize your worth, to know that it is not tied to job interviews or job offers or books and articles or tenure. It is hard in academia —I know! —to separate ourselves from the job, to recognize that we are worth something, worth a lot, without the job. We are worthwhile. Because, to paraphrase Brene Brown, we were born worthy.


This is key. We were born worthy. Try saying it out loud. Say it the next time you receive a rejection. "I am worthy." Your worth is not tied up in how others see you. It is not tied up in whether or not the chair of the department likes you or whether you make it to a campus visit or you receive that grant, or even whether your students like you. If you feel like your worth is in any of these things, you will be disappointed and you will feel like a fraud, an imposter. But don't worry—because it is not. And knowing that you are worthwhile even without this particular box ticked (the job, tenure, the acceptances, the grant, so-and-so liking you, etc.) will help you storm the more challenging times and open you up to take risks, enjoy the process, and move past the results whatever they may be.


Know that you are worthwhile, that you were born worthy. And now you can set your goals—because whatever the outcome, you are worthy.


In the coming weeks I'll talk more about setting effective goals by covering two more topics:


1. Developing a SMART plan

2. Organizing your time